Cereal for Coffee feeding kids, growing community spirit

Story and photo are published with permission from SU QLD.

Lots of hungry tummies are being filled at school with a good, healthy breakfast, thanks to Brisbane charity, Cereal for Coffee.

Cereal for Coffee partners with Brisbane chaplains and school breakfast clubs to provide breakfast to the one in five Australian children who go to school every day without food.

Founder Philip Sargeson said the idea was born from his wife, who was a teacher, seeing her students come to school every day without food.

“We started to ask ourselves, ‘What can we do? How can we help?” Mr Sargeson said.

“We did research that showed one in five students go to school without food, but we live in a First World country where a lot of people waste food.

“Students lose two hours of learning time by being hungry because they can’t concentrate. If a kid goes to school, even if just once a week without breakfast, over a year they lose an entire term because they can’t focus or have issues in class.”

So Cereal for Coffee was born in 2015 with nine cafes in the Wynnum-Manly area giving away a coffee to every customer who brought in a box of cereal. That year they collected 450 boxes of cereal for school breakfast programs. Donating the cost of one cup of coffee provides breakfast for 18 students.

Fast forward to last year’s event, which included 54 cafes and collected 1200 boxes of cereal for hungry children and young people in school breakfast programs around the city.

“Ultimately the kids get food in their bellies, but it’s also helping the school and their community to provide that need,” Mr Sargeson said.

“I’ve heard from teachers that it brings that sense of community into school, and the students are not afraid to ask for a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal, which is breaking down those social barriers because it’s open to everyone.”

Mount Gravatt East State School chaplain, Allison van Zanten, sees the difference Cereal for Coffee has made in her school.

“We had a breakfast club at Mt Gravatt East State School but I was struggling,” chappy Allison said.

“Then I met Kim Peries from Pet City Mt Gravatt at an under 8s day and she’s super passionate about kids having a healthy breakfast before school, and I shared with her about breakfast club and she said, ‘We should get Cereal for Coffee involved’.

“So they got involved and now they look after everything. It’s now called the Top Up Club and it’s at the tuckshop Monday to Friday, every single morning, and it’s free.”

Chappy Allison said having Cereal for Coffee run the Top Up Club meant she could spend more time with the students who drop in, rather than being busy behind a counter making toast.

“It’s about more than providing breakfasts but building relationships and trust with the students, to identify those who regularly missed breakfast, and often lunch as well,” she said.

“This has been a good way for students to be more open about it, so when kids don’t have lunch we can take them to the tuckshop and get them something for lunch, like make them some toast. The kids are more comfortable about coming forward now.

“The community is connecting with the kids now, too”.